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Pope Francis says of Ukraine, Gaza: "A negotiated peace is better than a war without end"

Pope calls for negotiating end to wars
Pope Francis says "negotiated peace is better than a war without end" 07:15

Pope Francis pleaded for peace worldwide amid ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza, telling CBS News on Wednesday that "a negotiated peace is better than a war without end." 

"Please. Countries at war, all of them, stop the war. Look to negotiate. Look for peace," the pope, speaking through a translator, told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell during an hourlong interview at the guest house where he lives in Rome. 

The pontiff frequently talks about the Israel-Hamas war in his addresses. He made a strong appeal for a cease-fire in Gaza and a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine during his Easter Sunday Mass earlier this month. 

He said Wednesday that he calls parishioners in Gaza every day to hear what they are experiencing. The United Nations has warned that famine is imminent and Palestinians are suffering from "horrifying levels of hunger and suffering." 

"They tell me what's going on," Francis said. "It's very hard. Very, very hard. And food goes in, but they have to fight for it." 

Asked whether he could help negotiate peace, he replied, "I can pray," and added, "I do. I pray a lot." 

Pope Francis with CBS News anchor Norah O'Donnell
Pope Francis speaks with "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell on April 24, 2024. CBS News

Also on the pope's mind is the war in Ukraine and the devastating effects Russia's invasion of the U.S. ally has had on Ukrainian children. 

"Those kids don't know how to smile," the pope said. "I tell them something, but they forgot how to smile. And this is very hard when a child forgets to smile. That's really very serious. Very serious." 

The Vatican will be hosting the first World Children's Day in May — a two-day event dedicated to children ages 5 to 12. The event seeks to answer, "What kind of world do we want to leave to the children who are growing up now?" 

"Children always bear a message," the 87-year-old pontiff said. "They bear a message. And it is a way for us to have a younger heart." 

He also had a message for those who do not see a place for themselves in the Catholic Church anymore. 

"I would say that there is always a place, always. If in this parish the priest doesn't seem welcoming, I understand, but go and look elsewhere, there is always a place," he said. "Do not run away from the Church. The Church is very big. It's more than a temple ... you shouldn't run away from her." 

An extended version of O'Donnell's interview with Pope Francis will air on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, May 19 at 7 p.m. ET. On Monday, May 20, CBS will broadcast an hourlong primetime special dedicated to the papal interview at 10 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network and streaming on Paramount+. Additionally, CBS News and Stations will carry O'Donnell's interview across platforms. 

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